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SCRAPPING SPECIALISED VARSITIES AND MONOTECHNICS

By NBF News
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DESPITE the recent official denial by the Minister of Education, Ruqyyatu  Rufa'i, that government has no plans to scrap  colleges of education and  similar institutions, the federal government seems to have decided to scrap all  specialised universities and monotechnics in the country. This move is unsettling. What is the objective of all this?

The decision simply exposes the mounting confusion in the education sector, obviously the authorities appear to have no idea about what needs to be done in the education sector. Government should not scrap all the institutions; they may be reorganised and funded properly to enable them fulfill the original purposes for which they were established. Has any proper assessment of the institutions been done? Or is the decision based on executive fiat? Perhaps the problem with the affected schools is not that they are no longer relevant, but that they have been mismanaged.

Indeed, given the general backwardness in many sectors of the economy and the manpower crisis that the country faces, such specialised institutions, if properly organised may help produce the right kind of manpower for the economic turn-around that government officials often imagine would happen without much effort on their part.

Professor Rufa'i was speaking recently during the opening ceremony of a meeting of the National Board of Technical Education (NBTE), with rectors  of polytechnics, provosts of colleges and other specialised institutions in  attendance.  According to her, all institutions offering single courses would no longer be allowed to operate in Nigeria. She said, '…the institutions would be encouraged to diversify and expand their programmes to meet current challenges and needs of the nation's education sector'.

Although the Minister didn't list the institutions, it is understood that all  universities of agriculture and technology would be affected, as well as all monotechnics and institutes of agriculture.  But it is not clear whether the monotechnics and agric institutes would be affiliated to existing universities or not. Rather than explain clearly what the new proposal entails and the implications for the staff and students, the Minister instead announced the licensing of five new private polytechnics and 23 Vocational  Enterprise Institutions (VEIs) and Innovation Enterprise Institutions (IEIs) in  Kaduna. Does this make any sense at all?

The changes in the education sector with regard to policy are far too many. There is no properly articulated, long-term blueprint to guide the policy makers. That explains why every new Minister comes up with ideas that are soon abandoned immediately he or she is replaced.  The reliance on  ad-hoc, fire brigade policies have  tended to destroy  whatever gains  made at any time. In less than five years or so, we have had as many changes as there were Ministers of Education, with each proposing one idea or another.

This includes the scrapping of the 102 Unity Schools, which has now been reversed after the schools were shut down for four years  without junior secondary classes. Then, came the uncharted education road map that that has now been abandoned.

Earlier, the country moved from the 6-5-4 system to the now controversial 6-3-3-4  system that seems to have been discarded. Also, at present, the country is  experimenting with Universal Basic Education (UBE) without adequate  preparation. And, now, we are confronted with an ill-conceived move to scrap specialised tertiary institutions in the country.

What is the guarantee that tomorrow, a new Minister won't reverse the decision?  The education  sector is too important to be run on a trial and error basis. In other climes,  there are specialised universities and research institutes that are involved in training and research. That we are thinking of scrapping ours shows a lack of seriousness.

There was time in this same country when government gave scholarship to students to encourage them to take to specialised fields such as agriculture, education, surveying, aviation and so on. Our problem is the lack of holistic approach to development. Schools are established indiscriminately without any linkage with the country's manpower development needs and the economy.  Rather than scrap the institutions, government may consider reducing their number.